Pop Culture Gadabout
Sunday, September 12, 2010
      ( 9/12/2010 09:53:00 AM ) Bill S.  

BEASTLETS AND BROOMSTICKS: In the annals of pulp fiction, the name Arthur Leo Zagat is not one that leaps to the top of the list. Yet the former lawyer turned fictioner was a prolific contributor to American fiction magazines of the thirties and forties, producing hundreds of yarns for mags like Argosy, Dime Mystery Magazine and Astounding Stories. Recently, Black Dog Books, a small press specializing in rescuing obscure works and writers from the glory days of the ten-cent story mags, released a collection of Zagat’s horror fiction entitled The Man from Hell. A definite curiosity, it won’t dislodged any of the big names from their place in the hierarchy, but it has its moments of cheesy fun.

Seven of the nine stories in this collection were written under the gender-switched pseudonym of “Morgan LaFay” for one of the more intriguing pulp titles of the thirties, Spicy Mystery Stories. Befitting its title, Spicy specialized in terror tales that had a dose of sexiness to ‘em: heroines pressing “the firm roundness” of their breasts against manly heroes, fully hipped “pagan” sirens luring our heroes to their doom, between-the-paragraphs sex scenes -- nothing too explicit but hot stuff in its day to a young male readership. Because they were written for a mystery pulp rather than a straight-up horror title like Weird Tales, many of the LaFay stories have “logical” explanations for the seeming supernatural horrors that are described, though typically the writer’ll leave some room for the reader to ignore these killjoy rationalizations.

Thus, in “Cargo for Hell,” the rageaholic captain of a cargo schooner takes his new bride with him on the cargo delivery of a coffin that his superstitious South Sea crewmen believe contains a vampire. The explanation proves more mundane, of course, but not before we’re treated to the sight of a slain crewman with a “throat whose lacerated sinews, whose slashed windpipe, were blanched, grey-white, bloodless.” As a prose-stylist, Zagat clearly showed a predilection for the purple.

A few of the tales also display cultural attitudes a present day writer would have difficulty selling to most editors -- unless they dialed the Irony Meter up to the eleven. In “Hell’s Anteroom” and “The Sharp Teeth of Satan,” Zagat builds his horror on the fear of miscegenation: in the first, the marriage between a stalwart artist and a gypsy girl produces an animalistic “beastlet” of an offspring; in the second, a woman is debased by a sadistic “Eurasian mixed breed, than which there is no more devilish combination on God’s footstool.” The result of this union is a monstrous cretinous infant reminiscent of the killer baby in Larry Cohen’s schlock drive-in classic, It’s Alive.

“Teeth” and other tale, “Her Demon Lover,” also contain elements of s-and-m for that extra dash of “spiciness.” In the second offering, a voluptuous country girl is whipped by her brutish moonshiner hubby for a page-and-a-half, tearing off her clothes and eliciting “exquisite agony” once it touches her breasts. You want lurid? We’ve got lurid.

As a sampler of pulpy cheap thrills, The Man from Hell isn’t for the easily offended or those admirers of the exquisitely worded tale of terror. Rather, it’s for readers ready to dash through some cheap and disposable entertainment from a bygone era. If you’re the type of reader who knows and prefers the Spider to Doc Savage or the Shadow, who thinks that Seabury Quinn’s Jules de Grandin was every bit the equal to Sherlock Holmes -- if you even recognize all the names in the first half of this sentence -- than this book is for you.

(First published on Blogcritics.)


# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:

A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page

Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine


Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery


Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett


Michael's Movie Palace

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag


News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

Peter David

Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Marc Bernardin

Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby


The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter

A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.

My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Roy Edroso


Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman


Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends

Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed

Powered by Blogger

    follow me on Twitter